Bible Atlas Review: Conclusion

Over the last two weeks I have posted reviews of four major Bible Atlases released in the last few months.  All four of the atlases reviewed are excellent and each would be an important addition to any library.  Each has strengths and weaknesses, but each is worth owning and using in personal Bible study.

Best Maps: ESV Bible Atlas.  The maps in this volume are detailed and clear, and the Regional Maps section goes well beyond the other volumes reviewed. The maps are detailed and complete, including Italy, Macedonia and Achia, Western and Southern Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Sinai and Egypt.  These maps span two large pages and are printed to the interior edge of the page so nothing is missing.

Best Photography: Zondervan Atlas of the Bible. I think I was drawn to the photography in this Atlas because more than once I saw a picture which I took on one of my trips to Israel.  The atlas treats us to some unusual angles of traditional sites as well as photos one does not often see in an atlas.  I found myself browsing through this Atlas for the pictures more than the others.

Best Illustrations: ESV Bible Atlas. The drawings of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple in various periods provide a concrete view of scholarly speculation.  The IVP Atlas has excellent illustrations as well, but the ESV illustrations are more rich in details.

Best Articles: ESV Bible Atlas and The New Moody Atlas of the Bible. Both of these volumes are worth considering for a college level Old Testament survey course.  The Zondervan Atlas is nearly as good, but the depth of the ESV and Moody atlases is hard to beat.  I might give the edge to the Moody Atlas since it includes a great deal of documentation and footnotes.

Best Layman Atlas: The IVP Atlas. The maps are clear and the art well-presented.  The articles are brief and contained to a pair of pages.  I can imagine someone using this Atlas while reading through Joshua or Judges and tracking events on the maps.  The IVP Atlas is not “dumbed-down” by any means, but will likely be a favorite for the casual reader.

Best Scholarly Atlas: ESV Bible Atlas. While the New Moody Atlas is close, there is simply more details provided in the ESV Atlas.

What is missing from these Atlases?  As I said a few times in the reviews, I like to compare the map of David’s to Solomon’s Jerusalem, to Nehemiah’s Jerusalem, and then to the New Testament period.   This is harder to do with these maps on separate pages.  I would have liked two facing pages with all four periods on it.  What ever happened to the plastic overlays that used to appear in Atlases and encyclopedias? I suppose they have been dropped to keep price down, but they could be useful for demonstrating the growth of the city of Jerusalem.

Another general problem with Bible Atlases is that they seem to be limited in the New Testament period.  A few pages for the world of Jesus and then a few more for the Pauline mission.  I know that the “biblical world” tends to refer to the Canaan, but there is far more that could be done on the Roman world in which Paul ministered.  Some of this is in Ephesus, Corinth and Rome could be given more details and maps.  All the atlases include a section on the seven churches of Revelation, but these  cities were already a part of the Pauline mission.  Dismissing the geography and history of Asia Minor in two or three pages covering the seven cities seems to me too limited.  I would like to see an atlas that was focuses solely on the New Testament geographically and historically.

These four volumes are all excellent contributions to the study of the geography of the Bible. I think that the ESV Bible Atlas and the New Moody Bible Atlas would make excellent textbooks for an Old Testament survey course, although all four would serve well.

16 thoughts on “Bible Atlas Review: Conclusion

  1. “I would have liked two facing pages with all four periods on it. What ever happened to the plastic overlays that used to appear in Atlases and encyclopedias?” P. Long
    I agree plastic overlays would be helpful.

  2. I did not include Rose Publishing’s collection since this was a review of three recent atlases (the last six months), plus the IVP that I have used for a few years. Another reason is that I simply do not have a copy of the Rose Map book.

    I will say that the wall-chart “Holy Land: Then and Now” from Rose was on my classroom wall for many years!

  3. I have been looking at some of these atlases as well, and I am currently reading through the Holman Bible Atlas as well. Have you looked at the Holman Atlas in your evaluations?

  4. Hi, did you ever find a good atlas or resource for the new testament world- like what you were wanting in this article? I’m also on the hunt for such a resource

      • Thanks! I am also looking for a good book on Jerusalem. Could you tell me what book you have? (I have just recently started getting into bible atlases and am really appreciating how helpful they can be for bible study)

      • I bought a copy of Carta’s Illustrated History of Jerusalem by Meir Ben-Dov when I was in Israel (it feels more authentic that way). I like the illustrations (line art, some B&W photographs), it includes maps and descriptions for every period up to the present (there is an artist’s rendering of the light rail system which is now working in the city). There are a number of interesting side bars (reading arabic street signs in the old city, a kind of spotters guide for different religious groups based on their hats and outfits, etc.) I love the section on the ramparts, Suliman’s walls. he gives things to look for on the walls, designs, etc.

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